Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Fri March 11 2016

How Friendly Is Your Airline?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 11, 2016

How Friendly Is Your Airline?

How flier friendly is an airline? A lot of variables go into predicting the overall quality of a flying experience. Airlines seem to be aware of this: Delta has gone to great lengths, for instance, to improve its on-time performance. At least in the United States, it has become one of the industry leaders in this category. American and United, meanwhile, have taken small steps to improve fliers’ experiences by offering free in-flight snacks, and JetBlue’s cabin redesigns could take customer comfort and in-flight entertainment to another level.

How much does an airline care about their passengers?

These things certainly matter in and of themselves, and they can also be seen as signs that an airline has a certain level of respect for its passengers.

What about when the time comes to put their money where their mouth is? Airlines are sometimes required to offer refunds and provide compensation if their flights are delayed. There have been some recent instances of carriers being willing to do this, at least in the United States. For example, when Winter Storm Jonas hit the East Coast, airlines waived change and cancelation fees for passengers. Most carriers did the same for people who were fearful of traveling to places affected by the Zika virus.

READ MORE: Airlines Waive Change Fees Ahead Of Major East Coast Storm

Putting a number to airlines' flier friendliness

But what about outside of these specific instances? Passenger advocate AirHelp, a firm that helps passengers jump through the legal hoops that are sometimes necessary to get compensation from the airlines, has created a ranking that seeks to put a number to airlines’ overall customer friendliness.

The ranking weighs several variables including an airline’s Skytrax rating, its on-time performance and how efficiently and fairly it processes compensation claims. Airlines were given a score of up to 10 in each of these three categories and then those scores were averaged to get a final number.

Who ranked highest?

According the AirHelp’s rankings, the world’s most flier-friendly airline is Qatar Airways, which earned a total of 8.7 points. The Gulf carrier was helped to the number one spot by a perfect Skytrax rating, which gave it 10 points. However, its on-time performance and claim processing performance were actually worse than the second and third place airlines, KLM and AirBaltic.

How did American carriers perform?

Delta Airlines was the highest scoring American carrier. It earned a total score of 7.6 points. United and American finished with 7.4 and 7.35 points respectively. All three legacy carriers have three-star Skytrax ratings (good for six AirHelp points). Delta’s on-time performance was slightly better than its two peers, and all three hovered around the eight-point mark in terms of paying required compensation claims.

READ MORE: Annual Report Spells Bad News for Airline Customer Satisfaction

Airlines to really watch out for

The report focused on European carriers, so U.S.-based LCCs were not included. U.S.-based legacy carriers scored at about par.

Fliers should be aware that a few airlines performed well below average in the on-time performance and claim payment categories.

WOW Air, Icelandair and Portugal’s Sata International all scored below seven points when it came to on-time performance. A few airlines had head-turning rankings when it came to paying out required compensation. Swiss International (3.3 out of 10 points for ease of compensation claims), Virgin Atlantic (3.1), easyJet (3.4) and Sata (2.9) were all extremely slow to process claims.

A number of other variables certainly could factor into a flier’s overall experience with an airline. However, the AirHelp ranking does help to paint a general picture of how flier-friendly a particular airline is. 


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